The Nuremberg Trials

Written by Alexander Zvyagintsev
Review by Mandy Jenkinson

The Nuremberg Trials are about to begin, and the victorious nations are determined that the Nazis will be brought to justice. The USSR’s chief prosecutor, Roman Rudenko, is as determined as anyone to expose German war crimes, but behind the scenes hidden forces are equally determined that the trials should not go ahead. Author Alexander Zvyagintsev, who has also written a biography of Rudenko, has delved into the archives and uncovered hitherto unknown intrigues and covert operations, and the result is this pacy fictionalised retelling of the run-up to the Trials.

The book is suspenseful and a real page-turner but not without its faults, including rather too large a cast of characters and a very complex plot, and it is often difficult to distinguish between the fact and the fiction. My biggest problem, however, was with the translation, which contained an inexcusable number of grammatical mistakes, anachronisms and Americanisms. Even if we can explain away some of them as typos, there’s no excuse for “…they said it to an American psychologist THAT was assigned to them,” or again “…a letter from his dead wife THAT he drove to suicide.” Expressions such as “get out of here!” (to express surprise rather than as a command) and “It sure is!” and Russians saying “Geez!” and Germans calling each other “buddy” just jar. Something else that became increasingly irksome was the use of the abbreviations Gen. or Maj. Instead of General or Major – I’ve never seen that done anywhere else. So, although overall this is an enjoyable and unusual exploration of Nuremberg, for me it was spoilt by these errors of translation and judgement, which I found distracting. An interesting but flawed spy thriller.